The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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The pandemic has reached an inflection point. Data show a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 infection and death rates, and state and national policies embrace endemicity and ease precautions; however, some observations from Europe suggest that Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant might cause an uptick of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance estimates that BA.2 accounted for 23% of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the week ending March 12, 2022.

As the US government moves toward cutting pandemic spending, a new road map points to areas that need more investment, from disease surveillance to indoor air quality. The road map provides guidance for addressing the “next normal”, when COVID-19 deaths are closer in-line with the deaths occurring in a bad influenza season, living with and treating post-COVID conditions, and preparing for future pandemics.

There is much still to learn about post-COVID conditions, or Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC). Some liken the term to cancer, a myriad of conditions occurring throughout the body with biologically diverse triggers that need specific diagnostic tools (see Topics to Watch) and treatments. They caution that 2 years’ experience with PASC is not long enough to bring certainty to the situation. In early March, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act  that, if passed, would centralize data, expand research, and help patients access care.

Immune System Biomarkers to Objectively Identify Patients With Post-COVID Conditions

At a Glance

  • Patterns of immune system biomarkers might help definitively identify patients with post-COVID conditions, or PASC.
  • PASC encompasses a broad, multisystem range of symptoms lasting months after acute COVID-19, commonly including fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, joint and muscle pain, and breathing problems.
  • No laboratory test is available to definitively diagnose PASC and a variety of tests and assessments are often needed to rule out other causes of symptoms before making a diagnosis.
  • Immune biomarkers, including cytokines, microRNA, and autoantibodies, can be easily obtained from a blood sample and might facilitate diagnosis and improve time to recovery from PASC.

Smartphone Teledentistry to Administer Dental Health Care During the COVID 19 Pandemic

At a Glance

  • Teledentistry is a health care model being used by dentists to remotely evaluate patients and administer a variety of dental services including preventative oral health care, dental emergency treatment, and orthodontia.
  • The use of teledentistry increased after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, because of concerns of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
  • Teledentistry services offered by companies including ToothpicDentulu, and Dental Monitoring enable patients to undergo remote assessment, diagnosis, and treatment by a dentist through the sharing of images and medical information through their smartphone application platforms. Remote evaluations may also help in triaging urgent and elective patient dental concerns. 
  • Many states require private insurance companies to cover teledentistry provided by an accredited dentist. Toothpic offers an out-of-pocket option of $35 to $50 for consultation for a specific issue, preventative care, or a prescription.

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Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: March 28, 2022

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